Taking a cue from the South
Things are heating up in the cake market, as two Southern trends take the country by storm.
Lots of creative industries follow and promote color trends. Usually, the baking world is immune to such fads. But for the past year or two, even the baking community has seen one color rise industry-wide: red. Specifically, red velvet cake. This traditional Southern favorite seemingly roared up unbidden to envelop the country in a nostalgic blanket.
Consumers are so crazy for the cake that food processors are even translating it into non-cake formats. Dawn showed off its red velvet white chip cookie at IBIE in September, Cold Stone Creamery unveiled a red velvet ice cream cupcake earlier this year, and beverage producer Cappuccino is even marketing a new red velvet frappe mix.
But not everyone is rushing to put a red velvet cake product on grocerystore shelves.
“We won’t do red velvet, even though it is wildly popular right now, because it requires artificial ingredients, and the natural options we tried just didn’t meet our taste standards,” explains Suzanne Cote, media relations manager for King Arthur Flour, Norwich, Vt., which produces a range of premium cake mixes. “We give flavor options and decoration tips, but we stick with what works.”
The second Southern cake trend that has grown to almost fever pitch is the cake ball. Although cake balls are already old news in home- and retailbaking spheres, signs indicate they’re about to have a big branded presence on supermarket shelves.
The Cake Ball Co., Dallas, widely credited with bringing cake balls to the national stage, had its products picked up by upscale department store Neiman Marcus, introducing the decadent treats to a moneyed consumer demographic. Austin Cake Ball, Austin, Texas, is another cake ball company consumers will soon know, if they don’t already. In October, the company, which has a presence in 16 Whole Foods stores in four states, announced it had achieved more than 400 percent growth in the past two years and was on track to ship more than 350,000 of the desserts by year’s end. Gourmet chocolatier Godiva also has waded into the cake ball fray, creating a line of what it calls ‘bakery dessert truffles’ in varieties like chocolate lava cake, carrot cake, strawberry tarte and, of course, red velvet cake.
Although the bite-size dessert hasn’t fully exploded in supermarkets just yet, Lynn Dornblaser, global new products expert for market research firm Mintel, says it can take a while before emergent trends hit the big time.
“Perhaps [cake balls] will follow what seems to be a logical progression for new bakery concepts,” she suggests, “starting with the home baker who likes to experiment, then progressing to freestanding bakeries or supermarket in-store bakeries, who also can experiment with new forms and styles, and then finally to commercial bakeries, where transforming these concepts can sometimes be far more difficult.”
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